the princess in the vase
Movie Monday: The Princess In The Vase 1908
One-hundred, fifteen years ago, today, the short, silent black & white comedy The Princess In The Vase was released. Directed by Wallace McCutcheon, Sr., it starred only three actors…D.W. Griffith, Edward Dillon and Linda Arvidson, Griffith’s then-wife. Griffith is the Lover, Arvidson is the Lady-in-Waiting and Dillon is the Waiter. C. W. “Billy” Bitzer was the cinematographer.
The opening scenes of this production are laid in Egypt, five hundred years before Herodotus, the Father of History, visited that country. Three thousand years ago, there dwelt in Egyptian Memphis, the ancient capital of the Pharaohs, a wealthy prince, whose wife in beauty was likened to [Hathor], the Egyptian Venus, with [a] heart as cold as Egyptian marble. The prince, worried and suspicious, seeks the royal seer, who tells him the princess has a lover and, in a vision, shows him the princess in the arms of that lover, a Theban warrior. Instant death is the punishment meted out to the guilty pair. The princess is placed on a bier and carried out in front of the Temple, under the very shadow of the Pyramids of Gizah. Here, the High Priest, with a flambeau, sets fire to the pyre and her body is burned as an offering, with prayers, to mighty Osiris, beseeching that he overcome Typhon, who seems to hold sway. Alongside the pyre is placed a vase, decorated with hieroglyphics, which is to be the sarcophagus, of that ethereal, of the unfortunate princess. The smoke and vapor, as it arises from the body, enters the vase in a most mysterious manner. The vase is then sealed and the cavalcade proceeds with it to the tomb, where it is deposited and the door of the tomb closed, it was thought forever. Three thousand years later, there came to the “Land of Ruins” a Boston professor, student of the illustrious Jean Francois Chainpollion, discoverer of the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics, who unearthed the vase and took it to his home in Boston. Vague, indeed, was the story he learned about the treasure and, while sitting in his study, cudgeling his brain to lift the veil of mystery from it, falls to sleep. [In] this psychological condition, [he] imagines the maid, while dusting, knocks the vase from the tabouret on which it stands. Bursting into bits, it emits a dense vapor, from which the reincarnated princess appears. Here is trouble. Our friend, the professor, is a married man, whose better-half is a buxom, unethereal person, who doesn’t believe in the “Soul Sister” tommyrot. She, of course, wants an explanation, which the nervous professor is unable to give, so he bolts and runs hatless out of the house, followed by the princess, both followed by Mrs. Professor. Into a restaurant he rushes, with the princess at his heels. At the restaurant, as they sit enjoying a repast, the reincarnated Theban lover appears and claims the princess. This, the old professor resents and is run through by the Egyptian just as the wife enters. Mortally wounded, he falls to the floor, from the sofa, [as] the scene changes and we find the professor awakening from a horrible dream, the pain of the sword thrust being induced by a severe attack of indigestion.
There are no videos of this or any pictures. Since the movie was about a Princess, I grabbed a photo of Linda Arvidson from her IMDb profile. She also has a nice picture on Wikipedia, linked, above. The film is listed for 1908 releases and there is a note/citation referencing a mention of this short in Horror In Silent Films: A Filmography 1896-1929, though IMDb does not tag this as a horror. The production company was American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, the first company in the US devoted entirely to film production and exhibition. There is a survival status of some print in the Library of Congress. I wish I had more. ~Vic